Burundi has deported a Rwandan national after accusing him of espionage and inciting protests in the capital city Bujumbura. Two days earlier, Rwandan President Paul Kagame had criticized Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to stay in power, Kenyan newspaper the East African reported.
Antoine Masozera, the manager of telecommunications company Econet in Burundi, was given 48 hours to leave the country last weekend. Burundi’s security services had accused Masozera of spying on behalf of "foreign intelligence” and also having a role in the uprising against Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office.
In a recent interview with a local newspaper, Kagame broke his silence on his Burundian counterpart’s third term bid, saying, “your own citizens tell you ‘we do not want you to do that or to lead us,’ maybe they are saying you haven’t done enough for them,” the East African reported. Kagame himself has ruled Rwanda, in fact or in name, for 21 years.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo also voiced concern over the violent unrest in neighboring Burundi, where more than a dozen people have been killed since late April. “Despite assurances given by Burundi, we cannot provide any help but there are still fears about the possibility that the Rwandan rebels based in eastern DR Congo can enjoy the violence in Burundi and destabilize Rwanda,” she said Sunday during an interview with the state-run Radio Rwanda, according to the East African.
After a constitutional court in Burundi upheld Nkurunziza's candidacy for president, the Rwandan government called on Burundian authorities “to take immediate necessary steps to ensure the protection of its population, end the worsening humanitarian situation and restore peace," the East African reported last week.
Heavy fighting in Bujumbura broke out after an army general attempted to oust Nkurunziza in a coup Wednesday. Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare also ordered the closure of the Bujumbura airport and Burundi’s land borders. Nkurunziza, who was in Tanzania for a regional summit meeting with East African leaders, swiftly dismissed the coup as a foiled attempt and said forces loyal to him remain in charge.
“I ask that all Burundians remain calm in the face of imposture,” the Burundian president said in French on Twitter Thursday. "The situation is under control and constitutional order safeguarded.”
Burundi state radio resumed broadcasts Thursday and aired a statement saying presidential loyalists were still in control of the station, Reuters said. Sources told BBC News loyalist troops also controlled key areas including the airport, the presidential palace and the capital center. A popular radio station, Radio Publique Africaine, was burnt down overnight Wednesday after broadcasting Niyobare’s coup announcement. Two other private radio stations have been shut down.
However, some of these reports have conflicted with claims by coup leaders who said Nkurunziza was deposed and the airport was under their control. Protesters have celebrated in the streets with soldiers claiming to have overthrown the president.
“The masses vigorously and tenaciously reject President Nkurunziza’s third-term mandate. President Pierre Nkurunziza has been relieved of his duties,” Niyombare, a former intelligence chief, reportedly said during a radio broadcast Wednesday.
Tens of thousands of Burundians have fled the country in the past two months ahead of the controversial presidential election in June. Some 25,000 Burundian refugees have sought asylum across the border in Rwanda, the United Nations refugee agency said. East African leaders have condemned the coup attempt in Burundi and have demanded a delay in the elections.
Protests erupted after Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term, which critics argue is unconstitutional. Experts have warned the deteriorating political situation could reignite ethnic conflict in Burundi, which recently emerged out of a brutal civil war.